Enabling Pedagogy of Social Work Education

April 5, 2021

Social Work Education is said to be a practical orientated, explorative education where the student can experience the social reality in a unique blend of theory and practice. It is here that the Social Work Educator’s role goes beyond just disseminating knowledge but more nurturing the student to become empathetic towards their client along with becoming critical thinkers, adaptive to social realities as well as evolving in a fast changing world.

Developing Social Work Educator’s skill is even more important in today’s fast changing social realities. In light of the above, new methodologies of social work practice, curriculum and delivery mechanism have to be tailor made to improve the learning outcome through focusing on learning outcome of the student. It is pivotal, and even more important that for Social Work to be successful in the future, Social Work Educators role in delivering the education system should be fully equipped.

Social Work Education in its entirety moves beyond the four walls of the class room with concurrent field work practice. Hence it becomes inevitable to have multiple perspectives, combining debate and discussion from practical inputs of students of their experience in the field and critically discussing and reflectively thinking about the imperative inputs from fellow students towards nurturing social workers as competitive individuals with empathetic moorings.

The question here is how ready or equipped are we as social work educators to foster this enabling environment? Can we introspect at every level and reflect on our teaching pedagogy. It is well known that developing social work educators’ skill is fulcrum to base social work education on. The learning process gives us an opportunity to build on such methodologies to help the student evolve as a skilled social worker. It should build space to collaborate with our co-workers, express and respect differences, engage in discussions on what we have learned and understand the grey areas. The Social Work Educators should act as facilitators, contextualise on the theory and provide a basis for debates and discussions. This will help in providing conceptual clarity.

Besides providing conceptual clarity, social work education is providing human service. It is therefore necessary to provide opportunity of “Learning by Doing”. This is needed as values and attitudes are necessary making social work educator as a mentor and a role model. The learner needs to engage in social work practice by understanding the relevance of social work practicum with a reflection on what is learned in the class room with the practical input to consolidate and comprehend of what is learned with a reflection of social realities in the field.

The context and connection of Social Work Practice: Social work practice provides an opportunity where the student can explore their experience in a real life setting and therefore build a cohesive understanding of the subject as a whole. It is a process of learning the techniques, skill and methods of social work in the real world. The context should be planned coordination between the three players the student, the social work educator and Practitioner (agency supervisors). The connection between the three should be as a cohesive whole. It should help th4 student improve his/her self-awareness, develop communication skills and foster leadership. Aligning these components and using the concepts, knowledge and skills to build a competent social worker is needed. The pedagogy needs to evolve towards concept-based learning to give the student a real life experience of dealing with individual clients. A student besides learning from the agency he/she is placed should also learn from the experience of his/her fellow social work students.

The Social Work Educator should connect the threads of learning from various agencies that different students are placed, foster debates and discussions in group conferences, foster debates and discussions through these conferences and experiential learning exercises and build creative thinking beyond the traditional learn, practice and understand. Navigating in these issues can be a daunting task but if carefully planned by the social work faculty as a whole and prepare the Social Work Educator to nurture, change and make the student willing to engage with fellow students and their co-workers and build a learning atmosphere that can transform social work education. Therefore, a focus on developing the social work educator building a unique bond among themselves, involving the social work agencies will eventually benefit the student social worker and make them build on their strengths, develop trust and confidence in their teachers and feel free to communicate with their field work agencies besides building future budding social workers which will enable the social work agencies have budding social workers with the zeal of taking the society with them.

It is only them that we can have an enabling pedagogy for social work education and nurture budding social workers to be resilient, adaptive, innovative, empathetic and critical thinkers, all of which is needed to be competent social workers.






By Dr P G Aquinas
Dr P G Aquinas is Professor and Chairman of the Post Graduate Department of Studies and Research in Social Work at Mangalore University, Mangalagangothri.
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Comment on this article

  • K.Vittala Rao, Bangalore

    Tue, Apr 13 2021

    An excellent write up. Actually it is the need of the hour. Societal changes are dynamic and the social work education is not updated, the students will be totally ill-equipped to meet any challenges during their career. Recently, I wrote an article. "An open Appeal to all Schools of Social Work". Here I emphasized that the Schools of social work must come out of their outdated curriculum which is as old as 1960s.

  • Maria Fernandes, Mangalore

    Wed, Apr 07 2021

    The social work educators need to update and widen the area of knowledge in order to prepare skilled social workers to function effectively in their respective fields. Very well written article.

  • Reshma K, Udupi

    Wed, Apr 07 2021

    Well written article. Relevant to revive social work education.

  • Anil Danthy, Shirva

    Wed, Apr 07 2021

    Worth reading.. very good insights, well presented and good article for teachers in Social Work.

  • Prashantha Naik, Mangalore University

    Wed, Apr 07 2021

    An excellent article unfolding the importance of education on social works and role of teachers.

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